The High Llamas - Here Come the Rattling Trees - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The High Llamas - Here Come the Rattling Trees

by Jeff Penczak Rating:6 Release Date:2016-01-25

As Larry David would say, “curb your enthusiasm”, fans of these baroque poppers, for this is not really the new album you’ve been anxiously awaiting these past five years. Instead, it is the soundtrack of sorts to a play that was performed in a Peckham pub a year-and-a-half ago, wherein Mr O’Hagan turns a Townshendesque eye towards some colourful characters trying to save the local leisure centre from privatisation. Our heroine, Amy, encounters said denizens in the local park, each with their own romantic recollections which form the basis for the play/soundtrack.

The opening nostalgic, acoustic interlude, ‘Prelude – A Day in the Square’ with wordless “baa-baa-bahs", tinkling harpsichord, and longing organ fills tears a page of sheet music from the Francis Lai songbook, and the lilting title track is pure Brian Wilson-meets-Burt Bacharach, although its enigmatic chorus (essentially the title repeated over and over) fails to clue us in on what exactly is happening.

     So, perhaps you literally had to be there to follow the “book” of this play, because lyricless tracks like ‘Amy Recalls Barham Trees’, the patently redundant ‘Runner Recalls Outback Runner’, ‘Decorator Recalls Star Tempo Has Arrived’ and ‘Plumber Recalls Call Me To The Common’ are nothing more than 30-second soundbytes that are pleasant enough, but meaningless in their current format. Heck, even the lyricked tracks are nothing more than the song titles repeated over and over.

     That’s not to suggest that the characters’ romantic, lazy dreamaway “Underscores” aren’t enjoyable in their own right (Bramble’s space age bachelor pad cha cha, McKain’s vibe-infused stutterstep), just don’t expect any of this to make any sense whatsoever. It’s tantamount to listening to the gorgeous soundtrack to a film you never saw, and is ultimately just as frustrating. At under half an hour, perhaps there’s a missing Volume 2 that will explain all? Otherwise, I’d stick to my other “imaginary soundtracks’, particularly Felt’s similar sounding instrumental albums, Let The Snakes Crinkle Their Heads To Death and Train Above The City., and await a "real" album, not this spacefilling stopgap and its potent scent of "contractual obligation".

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